Ripping the Bible

To show sophomores how it felt to see a sacred book destroyed, an Idaho English teacher ripped a Bible in class. Students were reading Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451, set in a future society that burns all literature.

Slings and Arrows defends the teacher, who’s been disciplined in some unidentified way.

If you are a believer in Christ, Karen Christenson’s behavior should cause you absolutely no distress at all. There is nothing holy or sanctified about the compilation of leather and paper and ink that she destroyed. To believe that the book she ripped up was more than a book is to delve into idolatry.

What is sacred is the truth which that book contained. Mrs. Christenson did absolutely nothing to destroy that truth, nor the dissemination of it. She did, however, graphically display the horrid nature of censorship and how it could very possibly affect us as a civilization.

I think it was unwise of the teacher to destroy a Bible. But gutsy.

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  1. If the principal thinks she’s a “great teacher”, the principal should have the fortitude to stand behind the teacher and not lie about having “disciplined” her in some unspecified manner.

    I don’t think she should have ripped up the Bible, though. She should have burned it.

  2. At a church camp about ten years ago, one of my leaders did the same thing; he ripped some pages out of a bible. The purpose was to get across basically the same point that Slings and Arrows does above.

    It sounds like a pretty effective demonstration to me, particularly for the Christians in the class.

  3. But it’s a stunt. Is she going to bite the head off a chicken next? If the only way she can engage her students is by acting sutff out, she’s at the wrong grade level.

  4. Bob Diethrich says:

    Good thing she did not rip up a Koran then she would have been arrested for a “hate crime” or racial profiling.

  5. Still… The very idea gives me the “creeps”

  6. Walter E. Wallis says:

    But if she had torn the latest People, she would have been out of there.

  7. Anonymous Coward says:

    [Sarcasm] It probably would have been worse for her if she’d ripped up a copy of the Koran, no?

    Or perhaps some sacred Buddhist texts. [/Sarcasm]

    In one aspect, this episode is telling. Much of the American education system looks at the Asian education systems (Korea, Japan, Taiwan, mainly) with envy, wishing it could produce such students.

    If this had happened in Asia– if the story had been considered newsworthy there, which I wonder about– I doubt you’d be reading about how the teacher was disciplined.

  8. As a Christian, I find the act offensive, but it’s not blasphemy or anything like that. As it says above, it’s just ink and paper. There are millions of Bibles in the world, and the destruction of one does not mean the others are destroyed.

    It’s just very insensitive and disrespectful. Considering the little things that teachers get reprimanded for, the teacher cannot be terribly surprised that there was some sort of reprisal.

  9. Unless it was specifically spelled out in some sort of goofy school regulation (2.3.6ii subsection a. No ripping of bibles) then I do not see that this is an issue that requires any sort of “discipline”. Would it have been ok to tear up a copy of Farheneit 451? Or the TV Guide? If so, why all the huffing and puffing about the bible? It is just a book.

  10. I agree with meep, disrespectful and unnecessary. Surely there is a better way to get the point across. I read 451 in school, I don’t like censorship and nobody ripped a bible in front of me.

  11. Like Jake, I read Fahrenheit 451 in school (along with a lot of Ray Bradbury’s other work) and I didn’t need to see a bible ripped up to get the point. But then again, I love books and I read the book on my own, not as part of class.

    Book-burning has always sent a shiver up my spine. I do know that I’m happy that students are reading the book. I think it’s vital that they understand what the supression of ideas and opinions really means. We live in a world where book burning goes on every day–the only thing that changes is the personal value system of the guy holding the match.

    Of course, the teacher being disciplined for teaching about the evils of surpressing ideas and opinions provides a bitter little shot of irony to the lesson itself.

  12. A bit edgy for me. Sounds like someone was trying to get an NEA grant for performance art, rather than teaching a classroom full of students.

    Probably within the bounds of academic freedom — but beyond the bounds of good taste or sense.

  13. Cousin Dave says:

    meep and jake, I hear you, but I’m backing the teacher on this one. Think back to your opinions of politics in your teenage years. I know that when I was that age, I mostly felt the impact of politics in a very superficial, teen-age sort of way. I didn’t really understand what “rights” were; they were just something that I used to try to shame my parents when I didn’t get my way about something. Teachers in these grades know that sometimes you have to hit the students over the head with something to get the point across and get the students to really understand what it means. Yes, it was offensive, but that was exactly the point. And no one ever promised the students that they will never be exposed to anything offensive in the real world.

    Boo, I agree that an actual book-burning would be even more effective. But you’ve got to admit that there are some practical difficulties with doing it in a classroom…


  1. The Shocking Case of Bruce Le Blanc

    teachers challenging your beliefs…and they get disciplined. Jeez, are we all getting custard-headed here in America?